Monday, May 18, 2009

A story about Gender Discrimination

The not very unlikely juxtaposition of a quote from Solilo's post and a conversation with a friend of mine sowed the seed of thought for this post. This is the quote from Solilo's blog post “Brusque” –

"Do not keep quiet in the face of injustice and gender bias. Those who knowingly keep quiet are as guilty as the perpetrators of injustice”.

And how are they related? Well, they are related because my friend is a woman, working in a reputable multinational software company has been the victim of sexual discrimination. This MNC tries hard to maintain a decent sex-ratio, and I guess it is because of some tax incentive they get. Now my friend, let's call her Mridul (she is very polite), and her colleague and friend, let's call her Aparajita (she is very spunky), have together faced the brunt. Their victimization has been so subtle, nondescript, and insidious, that even they failed to notice it. Or, they did sense it, but did nothing about it, because as a woman, you are used to facing a more than average resistance than your average man faces. They, being the decent and helpful creatures (and confound them for being nice), have been facing a slew of shit since the day they joined their team. Before I start telling you their story, let me tell you, that it suddenly dawned upon me ; what they have been facing is not just due to the misfortune of working in a software company in recession hit times as a fresher, but a significant portion of this "crap" has been dumped upon them on account of their sex. In one moment of epiphany, all the stories I heard over the past 5 months fell in place, illustrating the real picture. And it is ugly, sad and absolutely preposterous.

Here is the scenario - Mridul and Aparajita are freshers as I told you, and they were on bench for quite some time. For those fortunate enough never to have heard this term before, let me tell you what it means. It means that you are rusting. Your company has no work for you. And in these times, the axe may fall anytime. So these girls , along with another guy , one of the protagonists of our bitter-and-real life story , whom I shall name Mahamoorkh Chapanduk Pakhandi ( A big fool - A duffer - A hypocrite ) , i.e. M.C.P. , were grouped informally as a team , to be trained for the particular project soon-to-be-their team was working on. They were not formally allocated , but rather on their way to allocation. That is a like a state of limbo, between heaven and hell, neither here nor there.

So the three of them started their training. This involved mastering a technology, by doing and learning. And these three, as unofficial members of the team, had no access to individual computers, but rather had to share one. Three people - One computer. That is shocking on an altogether different level, for the MNC is multi-billion dollar company. Anyway, I think you all get an idea of what happened. One computer shared by three people, all of whom were supposed to practice their theory. Clashes were imminent and unavoidable. But after the initial unrest, the girls worked out things between them. But then, one computer, shared by two girls and one M.C.Pakhandi. This jackass, instead of being a gentleman and a professional, and trying to adapt to the situation, eventually turned out to be a pukka MCP, one that would make any other MCP proud. Like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, eventually he showed his true ugly colors. Now, Shreeman Pakhandi , hogged the computer , rarely offered them the one chair they all had to share or relinquished control of the mouse/keyboard .He went through the material they all had to study together at his own pace. If he ever did offer any help and/or the computer, it was more out of condescension, rather than a genuine sense of fair play and team spirit. It was a gesture of magnanimity, doled out to make the other feel small and insignificant. Whenever these girls expressed their difficulty in grasping some concept or the other, it emanated a smile from him, one which said “You dumb girls”, the emphasis being more on 'girl' than 'dumb'.

A completely unrelated, and yet, a significant incident. There is a quiz where you have to write the name of girl, the first one that comes to your mind. Now the jackass who came up with this quiz, was probably banking upon the fact , that like him , most other males would also write the name of the girl they are secretly or openly in love with. The purpose of this charade being to ascertain the name of your love, so that your friends can have a nice time pulling your leg. So our friend, Mahamoorkh, in the presence of Mridul and Aparajita, wrote a name. And as expected, the girls started teasing. And can you take a shot in the dark, and think up what his response was?

“I do not think of her like that. She is NOT beautiful”. Now you call me a loon, but this gives an insight into his character. Had the words been “I am not attracted to her”, it would have been no more than a blip on the radar. But the ones that actually came out suggest that, to him, Love is a by-product of sexual attraction. From that, I conclude that either he is sees woman as sex-objects, and only those beautiful or hot enough are worthy of his love. I may be wrong. I hope I am.

Our friend, M.C.Pakhandi, then ganged up with a fellow pig, lets call him Sidekick Swine (Pigs are in the air, eh?) , and two of them together, then made fun of the girls. Now, a very interesting observation is that, in this entire episode, he has never passed a single lewd remark, or made any obscene gesture. He has done nothing, which can actually be construed as actual sexual harassment. But, even this is sexual harassment. And I do not need a pair of ovaries, and a dose of estrogen to come to this conclusion. In the events that have unfolded in the past 5 months, the actions of MCP and his two bit sidekick, SS, have been more or less influenced by the fact, they Mridul and Aparajita are two girls, normal girls, neither bitchy nor meek. He behaves so, because, maybe, he sees them as not worthy of competing against him, or his bloated ego cannot digest a challenge from the fairer and apparently weaker sex.

This was one man. Now for some more.

In this team, all the girls, the ones who were lucky enough to get allocated got testing, as compared to the guys, who got development. Testing is commonly perceived as a job beneath the dignity of any coder worth his salt. But in a company, where most of the employees have not studied CS as their major, most of them are not coders. So the assignment should be done purely on the basis of their performance in the training program, and not on their sex. But, the girls get testing, not because they are not good at coding, but because they are girls

What some guys actually think about the role of the female members the team – To act as a stress buster, for the overworked male colleague, by letting them flirt with them anytime they want, objects to practice their macho act on and an interesting way to engage yourself when at leisure.

There was a team meeting in which the members were supposed to write down suggestions and ideas to improve the performance of the project. Our troika attended that meeting as well, even though they were not contributing towards the project. As they had no idea about what actually was going on, Mridul and Aparajita, could not have possibly come up with any idea or suggestion. So while they stared at their blank post-its, it caught the attention of senior male colleague. Initially, he coaxed them to write something. And soon it turned into a game, where another team member joined them, and unloaded a pile of post-its. They took verbal jabs at them, had fun at their expense, and shared this awesome in-joke. And guess what, M.C. Pakhandi, and S. Swine were nowhere around. Sexist? Or I am over imaginative?


Personally, I would thrash guys like MCP and SS within inches of their lives, but that would not do anyone any good. His complex, his antagonism towards woman, in general or particular would only increase. I just don't how can people like these be cured.

Now that the story is over, some of you may challenge the neutrality of the story teller, i.e. yours truly. For the past 5 months, whenever I heard their stories, Mr. Pakhandi was never the villain. He was just a male colleague, sometimes very irritating and obnoxious, and un-co-operative, but never the enemy. The girls never saw him in that light till I pointed it out, and they gave an unbiased account, telling it as it happened . As I said before, the realization that something sexist was going on was sudden, and hence, the story.

It is high time the girls kicked some serious MCP ass. I hope they get his balls as a trophy.

26 comments:

wordsndreamz said...

Kislay, Having spent 8 + years in the IT industry - I have come across numerous instances of this happenning.
I have heard of one particular account manager in my ex-org who apparently said - 'I'm assigning one girl to your team - don't complain that you don't have entertainment'! He, thankfully for him, did not say this in front of me - or he would have got it.

There was one more idiot - who got it from me. He was my boss at that time, and has the nerve to tell me that women are considered only at 50% capacity! And this guy was one the most useless guys around.. The sad thing is that even if we give it back - people with this kind of attitude, no matter what we say or do - will not change their mind so easily.. They will just take it to bitch about women behind their backs. And that is the saddest part!

But that bit about girls being assigned testing - just coz they were girls - is disgusting! Can't believe it! That is extremely sexist.. And the sad thing is as freshers - they will be stuck with testing forever..

I think women need to stand up and demand.. From what I have seen, girls in IT generally tend to be less demanding and less vocal. Once they start getting vocal - things will change.. And MCPs like these will not have the guts to behave that way.. For that guy who does not share the comp - they have to be strong and demand and not give up until he gives in.

Kislay said...

What can I say ? It is sad . If half population is treated as an inferior species , India will never shine .

wordsndreamz said...

I am sure things will change - may be slowly.. but things are already changing.. And just wanted to add that a lot of this is also due to conditioning.. Lots of these MCPs are brought up to believe that as men, they are god's gift to mankind and they feel threatened that women are doing what they do - even better.. I really feel that a guy , comfortable with his own identity is less likely to behave like this.. I have worked with loads of men - and most of them have been absolute gems! I have had men as bosses, men as subordinates, peers, who respect women and work very well with them indeed.. These do happen - but not always.. but yes, they do happen.Sorry abt hogging up your comments space :( just something I feel quite strongly about...

ramblingsbybones said...

Very well said...I wish there were more guys like you...

People should realize that sexism is not always covert...I have often not considered subtle sexism as sexism...

ramblingsbybones said...

Oops! I meant overt and not covert...

Usha Pisharody said...

Very very well articulated, Kislay, and in such an authentic and balanced manner too. You say it as it is. And this is not just the IT sector, but in most areas of work, education included, that you will find the men get away with the remarks, the innuendoes, and the work, and the women are left looking like puppets, and feeling like idiots, and of course, frustrated as hell. Time to kick MCP ass. True! And I do hope they will be able to do so!

lol@ The Trophy!~

Destination Infinity said...

I am very sceptical about the IT industry in India. I think it is the back office for the brains somewhere else and usually only mundane tasks get done in India. Am I right in my assumption?

Destination Infinity

kanaguonline said...

This kind of things happening Kislay... being in IT field I can see that... until men consider themselves as the saviour of the family this wont change... they must understand that women also having a equal part to play in a family and society

Solilo said...

Kislay, I bow to thee. I wish every man is like you and we won't scream gender bias any more. I know that many women to contribute to this bias but I am sure with men taking a strong stance, women would get their acts right too.

I am yet to reply to the comments on my post due to a busy weekend. But I am glad many came forward with follow up posts on the subject. Thank you.

If you don't have an objection then we would like to cross-post this on NGI blog (No gender inequality).

indianhomemaker said...

I think I have seen this happen too, and although I found this offensive it is too subtle to actually even understand what's happening ...

This is one of the things I should add to my list of what gets my goat.

Kislay said...

@Smitha I hope the same . And hogging up my comment space ? Feel free to write a post here if you want to.
@Bones,Usha and Solilo
Thank you . :) I am just an ordinary guy , who knows his place . I am sure there are men way better than me , cause there have been times , when even I have been sexist , subconsciously . With each passing day , I try to be less influenced by the societal conventions and conditoning .
@IHM You should add it to your list

Indyeah said...

Kislay...kudos dear friend for this awesome post..

you already know how much I liked this ...even when you had mailed this was such a stunner of a post and as Usha so rightly says , also beautifully articulated, balanced and authentic for sure...


you have said these lines very generously at times...
so now I take this opportunity to say it to you
picture me bowing before thee...

SOlilo has said it and I too say it..like I shared with the other three amazing bloggers on NGI and they too agreed that you Kislay are a feminist if there ever was one...and darn proud to know you too...
I certainly am..


with men like you in this world, this kind of gender discrimination will be a thing of the past...

your friends are fortunate to have you too :)
because you have written their story with an empathy that is heartening..to say the least



hats off Kislay!

Anrosh said...

i could give my own accounts but my husband told me a situation that he encountered while he studied in the university where the ratio was 1:250. for every 1 girl 250 boys. during the first semester - during workshops most girls just couldn't do it. so they will wait for the lab guy to help them or the other boys who finish it fast to help them.

the 2 girls in his class got in due to quotas.

that gets his goat ! he says if you are there perform. after all women are human beings and anything less is not expected.

tell your colleagues your kid is not well and you worry - that is fine. every parent does -- but don't make it an excuse to underperform.

the only competion that women can not win with a man is physically. but still a woman who exercises can still win.

in the US, things are very subtle. and it makes it easier to step up.

once i went with my boss for a meeting. it was them against us. them included 1 woman and 7 men.(experience for many years )
my boss had told me - it is going to be bad for us today. he usually takes the lead and i used to chime in when and where necessary. this time he said - you take the lead and i am going to chime in - i knew he was puttting me in a rocky place today (it was also a challenge for me). so this time i lead. there were very unpleasant moments during the meeting - after 2.5 hours i left a happy woman and i also got many more assignments and this time i was going alone.

it all depends on how one views the situation.

Winnie the poohi said...

Oh I am so glad to have read this.. being a female and working in not exactly IT industry but still a tech zone..

I am lucky to have never faced any discrimination.. put down to the fact that I happen to know more about the job i do.. than the rest of the crowd ( I am not being arrogant here) but it is a fact!

I have received compliments that " I have never met a girl who is as techie as you"

i dunno if i should take it as a compliment or not..

but then if I am honest.. I also revel in the fact that I am better than other men (mind you men .. as there are no other females in my team)

Hypocrite or what ?

Chikki said...

Oh..I have never faced this..Infact My bloody team lead is dating a gal from our team, and the rest is history..I am just suffocating man..And not that she is good at work,,She is below average..

Poor guys :(..!!

Ordinary Guy said...

brilliant one as usual dude!!!!
I have seen cases in the IT industry like this.........
thankfully, in my company, women have a lot of say........

Amen!!! The others have said most of what I wanna say!!!!!

TheGirlNextDoor said...

Having spent more than a decade and still counting in IT , here are my observations. There are brilliant and sharp guys and there are brilliant and sharp girls and these girls on an average do well. Then there are the average guys/girls. These of course form the bulk of the industry. What the average guy does differently from the average girl is get a couple of male buddies who are either more experiences or more smart and get them to help out discreetly, keep trying and something or the other clicks. What the average girl does is first loose confidence, then most of the times she will get hold of another smart guy to help her, who with his innate sense of superiority will help her and boast about it.

So there..

Anyway this brilliant piece very beautifully describes the industry

http://krishashok.wordpress.com/2007/12/18/an-open-letter-from-a-male-project-manager-to-women-in-it/

TheGirlNextDoor said...

Was thinking about this some more and wondered what stopped Mridul and Aparajita from getting in early grabbing the computer and letting go of it only in the evening? If you don't play fair mate, neither do we. That is what they should have told that MCP.
The trouble with girls is they wait for things to happen, wait for their work to be acknowledged, wait for the managers to realize they have been wronged and should be given good work/pay etc. It is time they realized that to get ahead at times you have to blow your own trumpet and stand up to be noticed.

The Quirky Indian said...

You actually connected all the dots and saw it for what it was. Amazing.

There are many instances like this, and most of the times our 'conditioning' does not let us realise what's happening.

Quirky Indian

BK Chowla said...

Kisley,it is a very well written post for which I copliment you.But,why single out only IT?It happens in other sectors also.Is it not prevelent in the aviation industry?The situation is such ,unfortunately,most of the girls accept this. I remmember a saying.....if the manager rapes hia secty,it is the secty who is sacked.It is a pity.So,my dear girls,don't sulk,get up and fight and you will find lot of us standing by you.Good luck.

Chrysalis said...

Kislay: The 2 sorry beings you mention are more a result of their upbringing than anyhting else. And it is a shame.
But being an IT wife (wife of an overworked, underpaid IT husband) let me tell you that I am seeing more and more women abusing their positions. It makes me mad that they work in an industry which has crazy hours or rather no hours...these women are getting by with 6-7 hours per day with no extra responsibility and then screaming themselves horase for equal wages, benefits et al. This is dicrimination in reversal. Thhis is especially the case for married women with young children. They are having meltdowns at the workplace because it is a fact you cannot balance kids and crazy work hours. Something's gotta give. But these women dont get it and behave unprofesionally and that is certainly no fair play.

Please read about my personal experience at : http://manukhajuria.blogspot.com/2009/04/gender-discrimination.html

Kislay said...

@Chrysalis

I read your post long back , and I must say that those rules do not apply here at all . The 2 girls are single , and freshers , 08 pass outs . They along with many other girls and guys are on bench . And what they faced was worsened by the fact they had an MCP for a team mate , no project and team members who made fun of them . I have been in a similar situation for a month or so , except that I got a project soon , and I am a man .

Chrysalis said...

Ya right this case is different and definitely not fair at all. Was just adding to that about a case where the dicrimination is in the reverse.

Sara said...

I'm so glad that a man could write such a post...hats off to you!!And I loved the names of the caharacters M C Pkhandi and Sidekick Swine.

Kislay said...

@Sara
Thank you . You are too kind .

cheeky said...

Hi there, this kind of story saddens me. I was discriminated too and thats because im married :(
I posted mine. You might be interested to check out :)
But being a man like you made me glad you post these. Thumbs up!